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Tarun Sagar’s response shows why Indians can’t choose or accept religious control of state

India is a democracy. That is why Sagar can and should be able to make such irrational and dangerous utterances that are so inimical to the idea of a secular and inclusive India.

Written by Ujjal Dosanjh | Updated: August 31, 2016 7:00:51 pm
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The followers of Tarun Sagar, the Jain leader are angry at Vishal Dadlani, offended by his tweets they say “insulted” Sagar and the Jains. The police are continuing to investigate the complaints lodged under the archaic criminal libel provisions brought in by the British–the provisions that no longer exist in Canada, a former colony like India, or in Britain itself. A demonised Dadlani has apologised.

But all of this brings me to the other more important and dangerous issue raised by this episode of lynching by competitive offendedness in India: the separation of religion and politics. Dadlani was concerned about the increasing mingling of religion and politics and in his response, Sagar liberally vindicated Dadlani’s fears by declaring, “Dharam is updesh and rajneeti is taqqat, so the two must go together”. He left absolutely no room for confusion when he said, “Religion must control politics. The two are inseparable.”

That left me completely angry. But I shall simply challenge his view as totally wrong and dangerous for India. I believe the vast majority of Indians too would question his claim that religion should control politics and political power.

India is a democracy. That is why Sagar can and should be able to make such irrational and dangerous utterances that are so inimical to the idea of a secular and inclusive India. If the followers of secularism were as easily offended as Sagar’s followers, it would have been wrong but he would have been hounded in the social media and excoriated as ‘offensive’ to our ‘religion’ of democracy.

Being a democracy India has the luxury of many choices: Between capitalism and socialism, right wing politics or left wing politics, parliamentary government or a presidential government and many more. But if India is to survive and thrive as a united, inclusive and caring country, Indians can’t choose or accept religious control of state. They must continue to choose and support secularism.

Indian political power, under the control of religion, is bound to take us toward a more theocratic India. In a secular and democratic India, religion in one’s life is the personal prerogative of each one of us. But none has the right to foist any religion upon the state or state power. Yet, that is exactly what is so dangerously being argued by Sagar and some others.

Unfortunately, religion already occupies too much space in the political machinations of various political parties and the politics of the country. Any further expansion of the religious space in its polity would be dangerous and unhealthy to the multi-faith, multilingual, multiracial and multi-ethnic nature of India– home to the centuries old diversity.

Every time there is a debate about secularism in India, one hears arguments as to when the word was embedded in the Constitution and by whom. In my humble opinion, had it not been in the Constitution of India, we would have been fiercely arguing for its import into it now. The vast majority of Indians are happy that the secular tenor of the Constitution, with or without the word secular, stands as a bulwark against the periodic assaultive incursions of the various ‘religious gurus’ into the polity and politics of the country.

Despite the proliferation of ‘gurus’ in modern India, the country has tremendous chaos and horrendous corruption. Religiosity and gurus galore, yet unbounded corruption and chaos reigns.

Without too many modern day ‘gurus’, India will do just fine; but without secularism in its law and life, the idea of a progressive and united India stands in danger of withering.

Views expressed by the author are personal.

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